Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dinner at Grandma’s Place

As we neared the end of our first day in Tallinn (btw all of that design and art wandering happened over the several days we were in Tallinn, so don’t think that we squished that all into one day :) ), our hearts were light with the potential of this darling medieval city, and set we out for dinner at Vanaema Juures, or Grandma’s Place, in Estonian.

As per the guide book’s recommendation, I had made reservations beforehand, and boy was that lucky. We came to the cozy little cellar restaurant promptly at our reservation time, and low and behold, our one table for two was the only empty seat in the house! I guess when the woman on the phone said, “Yes, I have one table left for you,” she meant it literally. O_O

Described as having some of the best Estonian food in Tallinn, we eagerly awaited to be courted by unknown flavors and exotic meats. Once again, not disappointed.

For starters, we had mushroom salad and clear salmon soup:

The mushroom salad was interesting, though I mean that in the nicest possibly way. Mixed with some sort of cream (as unidentifiable, since I don’t think, like the Russians, they are all about sour cream there), there were bits of onion to give it crunch, and it was covered in some sort of brown spice. It looked a lot like chili powder, but it had none of the zip. More like an allspice without the nuttiness.

The clear salmon soup, on the other hand, was exactly the sort of thing you’d want on a dreary day when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Warm, fulfilling, but not heavy. Fantastic amount of dill as well. I noticed that Finnish and Estonian food loves dill, something I’m a big fan of.

While we were at it, we decided to go Estonian-or-bust. We ordered the Estonian wines off the menu – in this case their house white and wine made from currants. Both were incredibly sweet (basically to the point of juice), and had very alcoholic vapors. Needless to say, they were sipped lightly throughout the meal.

The mains were fantastic. Since we were still on our exotic meats kick, my sister professed her undying admiration for elk meat, and promptly ordered the elk roast off of the menu:

Unfortunately it was not exactly as she remembered, and I think it was a bit overcooked and dry, but I don’t think she was disappointed either way. Each entrée came with a wealth of veggies – sautéed mushrooms, beets, carrots, pan fried potatoes, cauliflower, and an assortment of others.

I opted for the boar instead, deciding to go with a Game of Thrones theme that night:

My dish was delicious, and fortunately rather succulent. King Robert may have been bested, but I was not! Every morsel was consumed with fervor and delight.

Continuing with the Estonian theme of the night we opted for the traditional dessert on the menu: kama.

As you can see from the description (a dish prepared from a mixture of rye, oat, barley, and pea meal by mixing it with sour milk), there was a lot of high hopes about the taste of this dessert. I mean how could a mixture of a lot of grain meals and sour milk NOT be delicious, am I right?!? After some gentle urging, my sister gave in and decided that, “When in Estonia…yeah okay, whatever.”

It was surprisingly good.

It tasted like chopped up Grape Nuts cereal (or think of any sort of bland grain cereal equivalent), mixed with really watery yogurt, with a dollop of something sweet mixed in…in this case it looked a lot like jam but tasted kind of like really unsweetened honey. Not bad, actually, not bad at all. My sister and I talked over the merits of having a dessert like this and decided that really, it was probably good for digestion. It reminded me a lot of mämmi, the Finnish Easter dessert made of fermented rye flour…same idea I guess, though a much prettier result.

At the end of it, dinner at Grandma’s Place was just as delicious as it should have been. We were stuffed and had a fun time waddling back to the hotel for a good night’s rest. Good thing too, because the second day in Tallinn was just as packed as the first day…

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